The ability to stream in high definition over the internet has affected the world in many ways. It has brought us the ability to watch live sports from our smartphones, it means we can communicate with friends and relatives across the globe and it has given us the ability to sit in our armchairs with controller in hand and play tactical warm games halfway across the globe. The socialization of gaming is one of the biggest industries to come out of the internet. Just consider for a moment blockbuster games have, for nearly a decade, made comfortably more money than any equivalent movie release.
Grand Theft Auto V, perhaps the biggest of blockbuster games ever, was released in 2013 and was still the fifth best selling game in 2016. It has sold more than 70 million copies and made Rockstar, the team behind the game, $1 billion gross.
Therefore it seems fitting to say, ignore games at your peril.
Gaming went from niche interest to mass media.
The internet has fundamentally changed the way gaming is consumed. There was a time when it was a solitary endeavour. One person locked into battle against an artificially intelligent enemy. Then there were two controllers, then four, then eight and friends could compete, so long as they were sat in the same room as each other. High speed internet changed this gaming fundamental. A player could log onto a server and in a fairly short amount of time play against others remotely.
But then something amazing happened in the gaming world.
People started to enjoy watching other people play games. Cast your mind back to the first video of someone playing video games. Was it Leeroy Jenkins?
This scene in World of Warcraft, well known to anyone who’s spent any amount of time online as a gamer, took place in May 2007. That’s 10 years ago. It’s probably the first instance of mass consumed gaming content. If not the first, then certainly the most recognizable.
World of Warcraft doesn’t easily lend itself to mass consumption.
Its rich lexicon and well-developed world are not easy for a casual consumer to immerse themselves in. This type of game was indicative of an era of gaming that pandered to its perceived nerdy audience. The stage was set for a game to come along and transform the perception of video gaming and open it up to a diverse audience. That game arrived in 1994.
It’s time to lift the FIFA Cup.
EA Sports, a North American company had never much bothered themselves with soccer. But in the mid-nineties, an ambitious British exec persuaded them to take a punt on a ‘football game’. The rest as they say is history. FIFA has become the company’s most popular game series. If you want to know more about the creation and development of the FIFA series, give this Guardian Long Read podcast a listen.
FIFA made it cool to play video games.
It also made it cool to be really good at them, to the point where people wanted to show off just how good they were. That’s quite a shift in attitude. So came eSports, the phenomenon of competing against other gamers for cash prizes – and adulation – in front of an audience both actual and virtual.
The celebrity gamer.
If someone were to time travel to the modern age from say the 1950s, there would be much that would baffle them about this world, none more so than the celebrity gamer. Imagine trying to explain that! What would you say?
The fact that a person has earned unimaginable fame and riches by playing computer games well is a baffling state of affairs, to say the least. But this is the age in which we live. PewDiePie is the most famous gamer, he has 55 million subscribers to his YouTube channel and is worth an estimated $4 million. This goes to show the power that streaming has and how it has fundamentally changed the landscape of the internet.
What does the future hold?
It seems likely that VR will see the next level of advancement when it comes to streaming gaming content. It doesn’t seem so unfeasible that at some point in the not too distant future a competitive game of say FIFA could be watched from the actual stands in which the game is being played. A crowd of nonexistent spectators watching a pitch of non-existent players, all scattered across the globe. The future looks set to be weird but strangely wonderful..